Trita Parsi: Iran's Nuclear Helper?

Trita Parsi, the controversial founder and head of the National Iranian American Council (that may or may not have failed to follow the law in its failure to register as a foreign lobbyist) seems to have had a bit of a career advocating one thing the Iranian regime wants very much: the right to continue its rapidly accelerating nuclear enrichment program. Once the enrichment program spins ahead, Iran will accumulate enough nuclear material to develop a nuclear arsenal. Such an arsenal would not only pose a mortal peril for Israel, but would further endanger stability throughout the Middle East. And that would pose a huge risk for America -- the big Satan to the little Satan that is Israel in the ayatollahs' eyes.

Parsi has tried to obscure his support for Iran's enrichment program of late, but there is a history here. For example:
To address the root causes of the conflicts in the region, Washington must venture beyond its enrichment fetish and its fixation with superficial elections. Tensions in the Middle East are born out of a region in geopolitical flux in which the only country capable of bringing stability no longer views that as a desirable goal. By ignoring the context of these conflicts and the United States' responsibility in the region, the Bush administration risks making America a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Washington's best option is to give diplomacy a fair chance. By recognizing that the attainment of key American objectives-including peace in Lebanon and security for Israel-has been made all the more difficult by refusing unconditional negotiations and by solely viewing Iran through the enrichment prism, a critical and long-overdue step can be taken to address one of the root problems of the Middle East: America's non-relationship with Iran.

The "enrichment fetish"? The United Nations Security Council has issued resolutions demanding that Iran halt its enrichment program.

But there is much more: Parsi has called demands for suspension less sensible because, in his words, they would make Iran's development of a nuclear weapon more likely. That reasoning is a bit tortuous, but Parsi ventures that suspension would ease the intensity of the attention of the Security Council. It's a bit far-fetched, but Parsi is entitled to his opinion, as are the mullahs in Tehran.

In The Nation, Parsi states that trying to get Iran to agree to stop its enrichment program is an impossible goal and that zero enrichment is not the only route to avoid an Iranian bomb. Well, it may not be the only route, but it is a damned good one, since enrichment leads a nation further along the learning curve and allows it to develop a stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear uranium (or worse, plutonium). Once that stockpile has accumulated, the temptation to put the uranium to bad use is one that few nations with hegemonic aspirations, led by potentates who threaten other nations' imminent destruction, would deny themselves.

Then again, maybe Parsi merely wants to redefine what suspension means. (This sort of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" sophistry can just go on and on while Iranian centrifuges spin away.)

Parsi even tries to justify his position by stating that unnamed State Department officials privately admit Iran's right to enrichment. Ah, the old unnamed (fill in the number) officials privately (fill in what you are advocating) sort of argument! Parsi has spent a long time in Washington, after all.

He also thinks enrichment should just be one of many issues we can discuss with Iran (see his argument by fetish rationale above), thereby dismissing its importance, because enrichment does not mean weaponization, in Parsi's own words. Of course, making enrichment just one of many issues means that talks can be extended indefinitely. (I have shopped in a bazaar -- trust me that this would happen. We have certainly seen this dynamic at work as Europe and the IAEA negotiate with Iran.)

In his view, zero enrichment is a dead end, as he told the Iran-friendly English newspaper The Guardian, and mere suspension should not be a precondition for talks either.

Of course, Trita Parsi does support one action that occurred during the Bush presidency: the release of the terribly flawed 2007 National Intelligence Estimate report that all but absolved Iran of accusations that it was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That NIE report was not only heavily criticized when it was released, but subsequent disclosures (the Qom plant among them) have rendered its conclusions even more clearly wrong.

But Parsi made his own views even clearer during an interview on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR where he plaintively asks "why can't the Iranians enrich?" and goes on to actually provide a rationale for why Iran should develop nuclear weapons because they "live in a tough neighborhood."

Trita Parsi has tried to obscure his past, including his support for Iran's nuclear enrichment program. This advocacy for Iran's enrichment program takes place against a backdrop of violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, commitments made as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and promises made to European nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Parsi also leaves unanswered the question of why Iran -- a storehouse of clean-burning natural gas and oil -- would even need a nuclear program.

As Iran hurtles toward nuclear power status, Trita Parsi can claim credit for at least helping forestall a decisive American reaction to its enrichment program. He may not legally be a lobbyist for a foreign nation (and one that is our adversary, to boot), but he sure does a good job of seeming like one. 
Trita Parsi, the controversial founder and head of the National Iranian American Council (that may or may not have failed to follow the law in its failure to register as a foreign lobbyist) seems to have had a bit of a career advocating one thing the Iranian regime wants very much: the right to continue its rapidly accelerating nuclear enrichment program. Once the enrichment program spins ahead, Iran will accumulate enough nuclear material to develop a nuclear arsenal. Such an arsenal would not only pose a mortal peril for Israel, but would further endanger stability throughout the Middle East. And that would pose a huge risk for America -- the big Satan to the little Satan that is Israel in the ayatollahs' eyes.

Parsi has tried to obscure his support for Iran's enrichment program of late, but there is a history here. For example:
To address the root causes of the conflicts in the region, Washington must venture beyond its enrichment fetish and its fixation with superficial elections. Tensions in the Middle East are born out of a region in geopolitical flux in which the only country capable of bringing stability no longer views that as a desirable goal. By ignoring the context of these conflicts and the United States' responsibility in the region, the Bush administration risks making America a part of the problem rather than the solution.

Washington's best option is to give diplomacy a fair chance. By recognizing that the attainment of key American objectives-including peace in Lebanon and security for Israel-has been made all the more difficult by refusing unconditional negotiations and by solely viewing Iran through the enrichment prism, a critical and long-overdue step can be taken to address one of the root problems of the Middle East: America's non-relationship with Iran.

The "enrichment fetish"? The United Nations Security Council has issued resolutions demanding that Iran halt its enrichment program.

But there is much more: Parsi has called demands for suspension less sensible because, in his words, they would make Iran's development of a nuclear weapon more likely. That reasoning is a bit tortuous, but Parsi ventures that suspension would ease the intensity of the attention of the Security Council. It's a bit far-fetched, but Parsi is entitled to his opinion, as are the mullahs in Tehran.

In The Nation, Parsi states that trying to get Iran to agree to stop its enrichment program is an impossible goal and that zero enrichment is not the only route to avoid an Iranian bomb. Well, it may not be the only route, but it is a damned good one, since enrichment leads a nation further along the learning curve and allows it to develop a stockpile of weapons-grade nuclear uranium (or worse, plutonium). Once that stockpile has accumulated, the temptation to put the uranium to bad use is one that few nations with hegemonic aspirations, led by potentates who threaten other nations' imminent destruction, would deny themselves.

Then again, maybe Parsi merely wants to redefine what suspension means. (This sort of "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" sophistry can just go on and on while Iranian centrifuges spin away.)

Parsi even tries to justify his position by stating that unnamed State Department officials privately admit Iran's right to enrichment. Ah, the old unnamed (fill in the number) officials privately (fill in what you are advocating) sort of argument! Parsi has spent a long time in Washington, after all.

He also thinks enrichment should just be one of many issues we can discuss with Iran (see his argument by fetish rationale above), thereby dismissing its importance, because enrichment does not mean weaponization, in Parsi's own words. Of course, making enrichment just one of many issues means that talks can be extended indefinitely. (I have shopped in a bazaar -- trust me that this would happen. We have certainly seen this dynamic at work as Europe and the IAEA negotiate with Iran.)

In his view, zero enrichment is a dead end, as he told the Iran-friendly English newspaper The Guardian, and mere suspension should not be a precondition for talks either.

Of course, Trita Parsi does support one action that occurred during the Bush presidency: the release of the terribly flawed 2007 National Intelligence Estimate report that all but absolved Iran of accusations that it was pursuing a nuclear weapons program. That NIE report was not only heavily criticized when it was released, but subsequent disclosures (the Qom plant among them) have rendered its conclusions even more clearly wrong.

But Parsi made his own views even clearer during an interview on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR where he plaintively asks "why can't the Iranians enrich?" and goes on to actually provide a rationale for why Iran should develop nuclear weapons because they "live in a tough neighborhood."

Trita Parsi has tried to obscure his past, including his support for Iran's nuclear enrichment program. This advocacy for Iran's enrichment program takes place against a backdrop of violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, commitments made as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and promises made to European nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Parsi also leaves unanswered the question of why Iran -- a storehouse of clean-burning natural gas and oil -- would even need a nuclear program.

As Iran hurtles toward nuclear power status, Trita Parsi can claim credit for at least helping forestall a decisive American reaction to its enrichment program. He may not legally be a lobbyist for a foreign nation (and one that is our adversary, to boot), but he sure does a good job of seeming like one. 

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